Researchers in Madison, Wisconsin have discovered that 14% of middle-aged Americans have some sort of hearing loss. For those aged 48 to 59, that percentage jumps to around 20%, and for those 80 years old and older, the percentage skyrockets to 90%. The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health research study included 3,285 subjects from 21 to 84 years of age.
I've had three different hearing aids in my life, and the Motion 501 ITE is the best and most comfortable out of all of them. It isn't very hidden on my ear, but it is quite stylish. My hearing loss isn't severe, so I wasn't in need of something too strong. If you have severe hearing loss this many not be the one for you. I have it on the second to highest setting and it is perfect for me. If you are looking for an everyday hearing aid I would recommend this one.
What exactly is nanotechnology? Well, since the term wasn’t even coined until the 1970s, it cannot be found in this writer’s Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary published in 1977. So, turning to Wikipedia, “Nanotechnology (sometimes shortened to "Nanotech") is the study of manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale.” (1) A nanometer measures at one-billionth of a meter. To help put this into perspective, a nanometer’s size relationship to a meter is the same as the size relationship of a marble to the earth. (2)
Battery life and size are among the impediments to designing the most compact hearing devices. The smaller the battery, the shorter its longevity and its ability to store a charge. Capacitors, an older battery technology type, can offer a longer and more robust life, but at a cost of a greater energy storage size requirement. (3) Obviously, greater mass is unacceptable in hearing aid devices which are required to be small, comfortable and discreet.
Enter nanotubes. Tiny fibers attached to the battery’s electrodes provide exponentially greater energy storage capacity. “[A nanotech enhanced battery] could be recharged many, many times, perhaps hundreds of thousands of times, and…it could be recharged very quickly, just in a matter of seconds rather than a matter of hours,” according to M.I.T. Professor Joel Schindall, PhD. (4)
Nanotechnology in hearing aids is not limited to batteries; nanotechnology is also changing the way sound is captured from different types of sources. Hearing aid wearers are sometimes required to manually make a switch in order to hear sound emanating from cell phones, for example. Recent nanotechnology ‘sensors’ detect that the sound source is from an electronic device and automatically makes the necessary switch within the hearing aid, making the transition transparent to the wearer. (4).
Moisture is the enemy of the BTE (behind-the-ear) type of hearing aids. External devices are exposed to moist conditions, which can damage hearing aids. Siemens incorporated nanotechnology, using nanocoating on its BTE aids to repel moisture from sweat, humidity, rain and ear wax, thus extending the life of the device.(5) Nanocoatings are widely employed in the medical and electronics industries.
There is hope that nanotechnology will bring enhanced quality to hearing devices, conquering common complaints of feedback, ‘white noise’ and audio distortion.
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), in search of the next generation of hearing aid technology, has awarded grants designed to spur a faster rate of innovation in implantable hearing devices. Nanotechnology will enable the devices to not only be much smaller, but also much more powerful.
Scientists are currently working on the ultimate hearing aid still years away from development: a prosthetic implanted cochlea that is a merging of human tissue and synthetic material. This differs from current cochlear implant technology, in which a device replaces the cochlea’s non-working internal sensory cells. The envisioned prosthetic device would replace the entire cochlea.(7)
Firmly planted in futuristic territory is the concept of nanobots. A hearing specialist in the future will likely use “programmable molecular robots (nanobots) which could be injected into the forearm vein and guided into the labyrinthine artery……to scan, diagnose, and deliver a measured dose of drugs and chemicals to the hair cells as required.”(6) Nanobots may also be employed in cochlear hair cell repair.
Nanotechnology Now reported in January that a Kiel University group headed by chemist Rainer Herges has “succeeded for the first time in directly controlling the magnetic state of a single molecule at room temperature.” (8) This switchable molecule will allow for even greater storage capacity and better signal-to-noise ratios.
Nanotechnology will in future years be applied to replace integrated circuit (IC) technology, the heart of all computing devices, which is currently limited by the definition of photographic technology used in miniaturizing the IC processors. Improving the quality of speech in noise is the most serious complaint of hearing instrument users, nanotechnology will enable hearing instruments to incorporate higher computing power and thus achieve improved processing.
Nanotechnology is certain to yield discoveries that are unimaginable to us today. The possibilities, not just for hearing health technology, but for treatment of life-threatening diseases, are truly astounding.
(2) Kahn, Jennifer (2006). "Nanotechnology". National Geographic 2006 (June): 98–119.
(3) “Superbattery,” Victor Limjoco, ScienCentral http://www.sciencentral.com/articles/view.php3?article_id=218392803
(4) “Hearing Aids Given Nanotech Spin,” R Colin Johnson, 2/14/2005, EE Times online magazine, http://www.eetimes.com/electronics-news/4051706/Hearing-aids-given-nanotech-spin
(5) “Siemens Pioneers Nanotechnology in Hearing Instruments, May 8, 2006 http://www.healthyhearing.com/releases/8551-siemens-pioneers-nanotechnology-in
(6) “Sensorineural Hearing Loss and Nanootology – Will the Small and the Little be Louder?,” Dr. Biodun Olusesi, Nanootology.org, 2002, http://www.nanootology.org/SNHL.htm
(7) January 2003, “Nanotechnology May Improve Implantable Hearing Devices,” http://www.hearinglossweb.com/tech/ha/impl/impl.htm,
(8) “Tiny Magnetic Switch Discovered,” Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, January 28, 2011, Nanotechnology Now, http://www.nanotech-now.com/news.cgi?story_id=41538.
Researchers are calling for “critically needed” “rehabilitative strategies” for confronting a newly discovered association between hearing loss and the progression of dementia.03-18-2011
Many people have a misconceptions about hearing aids and believe there is no solution to their hearing problem. Consumerrespots.org conducted a national survey of 1,100 people who bought hearing aids in the past three years, and lab-tested the features of 44 hearing aids to learn more about the following challenges.
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